General Election 2016: It’s the economy, stupid

22 Feb 2016

More social media data is rolling in as the Irish General Election nears, with Facebook revealing its users put money well above education.

Facebook was the venue for last night’s (21 February) RTÉ debate ahead of this Friday’s General Election, with the social media giant revealing our most common whims and topics of conversation on the social network over the past few months.

Facebook’s snapshot spans 1 November right up until last Friday, a fair enough timeframe as the end of last year was heavily dominated by Irish politics as many wondered when the election would be called.

Future Human

It found that 830,000 users engaged in General Election-related chatter, with 5m interactions. Coming out on top of the pile of issues was the economy, leading from health, infrastructure, crime, social welfare, housing, education, flooding and abortion.

And, a point of note, the 5m ‘interactions’ include likes, shares and comments – be they posts or replies.

More money, more problems

The topics that those aged 18-40 engaged with were largely in line with the overall trends, perhaps an indication of what age group the majority of active Facebook users are in.

Interest during last night’s General Election debate shifted topics, slightly. In Dublin, for example, the economy was third on the list, trailing behind housing and health.

Outside of Dublin, too, housing was for more prominent than in the whole of November to February, but the economy was still top – RTÉ’s Leaders’ Debate last week saw economic issues dominate Google’s data, too.

Fine Gael representative Leo Varadkar was the name that cropped up most during last night’s show, with Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley, Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald, the Green Party’s Eamon Ryan and People Before Profit’s Adrienne Wallace rounding out the top five.

Considering the amount of screen time independent candidate Avril Power got, it’s perhaps surprising she doesn’t feature on the list.

Indeed, it’s a world away from Google’s report on RTÉ’s Leaders’ Debate from last week, which saw the non-established parties performing better.

Google Trends showed that the most-searched-for party leader on Google during the debate was Stephen Donnelly, followed closely by Richard Boyd-Barrett and Lucinda Creighton.

Google Trends looks at searches, while Facebook uses interactions as a metric but, considering the vast majority of candidates aim for as much exposure as possible in the lead-up to the election, it seems ranking highly on either would be a positive.

Main image of an Irish coin via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic